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Pentax MZ-30 35mm autofocus slr

The MZ series of autofocus SLR were the last series of 35mm film cameras which Pentax produced and the Pentax MZ-30 was one of the last cameras in that series with manufacturing starting in about 2000. It’s a quite basic but still well featured camera, which has many of the attributes of that line – light weight, small, easy to use and with great metering and autofocus performance for the day.

Pentax MZ-30 Images

I have several of this series of cameras and they are nice to use, although they all have a couple of design issues which mean they eventually fail.

The first is a major item because it stops the camera from functioning at all. The motor which drives the mirror is fitted with a small plastic cog which over time will split and stop driving the mirror. Once this has happened, the camera is basically useless until the cog or motor is replaced because the shutter won’t operate and the camera just sits with the motor whirring, trying to return the mirror.

I have an MZ-5n in this state and I’ve bought an MZ-50 as a donor camera to supply a motor, but I haven’t yet attempted the repair. I’ve looked for information for the repair and reports range from, ‘The most difficult operation I’ve attempted’ to ‘I’ve done 7 now and can almost do it with my eye’s closed’. It I successfully manage the repair I’ll post the procedure I used.

Update: The procedure is posted here.

The other issue  which plagues this design is the spring which holds the pop-up flash in place. The peg which keeps the spring in place eventually snaps leaving the flash unable to pop-up. I also have a camera with this problem (in fact the MZ-50 I bought to supply the mirror return motor for the MZ-5n) but to me this isn’t such a problem as I don’t use flash that often. This fault is also relatively easy to repair.

My Pentax MZ-30 Camera and Description

I bought my Pentax MZ-30 camera from eBay (as usual) as a body only example and paid only about £10 for it. It is in pretty clean cosmetic condition, with just a few marks on the bottom of the case. Since it didn’t have a lens I use a Sigma 28-80 f/3.5 macro zoom which I have, or fit the Pentax 35-80mm zoom from my MZ-50 on it, which would have been the lens supplied when new.

As I said above this is a fairly level entry camera with only a few controls and therefor aimed at the casual holiday snap-shot photographer. There are a series of program modes which cover typical scenes ie ‘Night scene’, ‘Action’, ‘Sports’, ‘Macro’, ‘Landscape’, ‘Portrait’ and a full auto mode so the camera does everything.

For more advanced photographers it’s possible to override the auto settings and choose Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Fully Manual operation if required. The control layout follows the MZ-7 almost completely, the only control missing is the somewhat useless ‘panorama’ mode, which simply masked the top and bottom of the frame.

One major difference between the Pentax MZ-30 and the MZ-7 is the lens mount which is a plastic version rather than metal, and is also the cut down ‘crippled KAF’ mount. This mount is missing the pin which reads the aperture information from the lens which limits it’s operation to only a subset of lenses with a K mount. For example, I can’t use the 18 to 55mm lens from my Pentax K5 on the MZ-30 because there is no aperture ring on the lens and therefor the mz-30 doesn’t know what the aperture is in all modes. I believe it will work on some exposure modes, but not others. That particular situation wouldn’t actually affect me much but it’s something to look into if you are considering buying a film camera because you have a selection of legacy lenses.

As I said abouve other than the mount this camera is very similar to the Pentax MZ-7 so please see  that post for more details.

Pentax MZ-30 Specification

  • Pentax MZ-30 35mm auto-focus camera
  • DX coded film with override and mid roll rewind
  • Auto focus with 3 point sensor + manual focus
  • Snap in focus feature.
  • Aperture priority/Shutter priority/Manual mode
  • Auto Picture mode/Green mode/Scene modes
  • Shutter 1/2000 to 30sec
  • Exposure compensation of +- 3 stops – visible in viewfinder
  • Self timer and remote shutter release
  • Popup flash
  • 92% pentamirror viewfinder with lots of shooting information
  • Crippled Kaf lens mount
  • Manual available on-line here.

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I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

  1. Russ says:

    I have the XZ-30, which is alright. Nothing special. A lot of plastic in it construction. Are the two similar?

    1. I think in the states the mz-30 was sold as the zx-30, if that is the one you have then yes they are the same

      1. Russ says:

        Thanks. I only have and use it because it came attached to a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8AF APO zoom.

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